Archive of ‘art’ category

pop goes the world: celebrating love and literature

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  7 February 2013, Thursday

Celebrating Love and Literature

Once in a while I feature in this column the literary events of the season, and here’s what’s happening in this month of love:

* * * * *

When you have a lost a loved one, how do you mourn?

Each person finds a way of coping. Support groups help; articles and books yield valuable tips. But ultimately, each one deals with grief and the pain of loss on an individual basis.

University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters associate professor, published poet, and performance artist Nerisa del Carmen Guevara lost her beloved to violence last year. This year, she spearheaded an interdisciplinary project at UST that brings together 11 colleges including the College of Science and the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in a collaborative effort that explores the many different forms and faces of love.

“Making: Love in Fourteen Collaborative Acts” will run from February 11 to 15 at the Main Lobby of the historic UST main building. It will showcase fourteen literary works – poems and excerpts from stories, essays, and plays – translated into other forms of art and science, all focused on love.

The project is organized under the wing of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (CCWLS) headed by Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo (also professor emerita of the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters).

“Making: Love” carries further the old UST Creative Writing Center’s project “Brushes with Words and Chords,” which featured works of literature, painting, and music.

The artists and collaborators will be at the exhibit for meet-and-greet and photo opportunities. On closing night, they will read from or perform their work.

Professor Guevara invites the Thomasian community and the public to the event. She adds, “I will be performing on February 15. This performance is called “Elegy.” I have collaborated with an architect, a mathematician, and a musician. I asked them to build me a bridge between life and afterlife.”

This is a love-in of literary, artistic, and scientific proportions. Bring your Valentine to UST to witness, experience, and taste “Making: Love.”

* * * * *

This event comes soon after the revitalized CCWLS under Dr. Hidalgo revived the UST literary journal “Tomas,” during an event that also saw the blessing of the Center’s new offices.

Established in 1998, the center used to be under the Faculty of Arts and Letters but is now an autonomous unit under the Office of the Rector. “Tomas” will be published every semester.

But wait, there’s more from UST. “The Varsitarian,” UST’s 84-year-old student publication, is organizing the 5th UST J. Elizalde Navarro National Workshop in Criticism on the Arts and Humanities and is now accepting applications.

The workshop will be held in Baguio City from May 26 to June 1 this year.

Fellowships will be awarded to 12 promising young critics who wish to enhance their analytical, research, and writing skills. Applicants must submit a scholarly, properly documented essay, 15-25 pages, on the following art forms – painting, sculpture, architecture, dance, drama, music, film, photography, and literature – on or before March 15, along with an updated resume and a recommendation letter from an academic mentor or art critic.

Send email to workshop convener Associate Professor Ralph Semino Galan at ralphseminogalan@gmail.com for details.

* * * * *

The admirers of Jose Garcia Villa will have a chance to see books and papers from his personal library at the Ateneo de Manila University starting today, February 7, 4:30 pm, at the Pardo de Tavera Room of the Rizal Library Special Collections building.

The Villa Estate donated rare Filipiniana, documents, and ephemera to the Rizal Library. The exhibit runs until May 30.

* * * * *

Tomorrow, February 8, the Literature Section of the University of San Carlos will hold “Minugbo: A Forum on Contemporary Visual Media” in Cebu City.

The forum will feature lectures by Jiji Borlasa (who will speak about Cebuano filmmaking), Anne Lorraine Uy (storytelling through pictures), and Diem Judilla (cinematic writing for short films).

This is a parallel event of the short film contest sponsored by the Section.   *** 

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pop goes the world: rh positive

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 13 December 2012, Wednesday

RH Positive

A front-page photograph in yesterday’s MST showed a row of solemn Catholic clergy – a cardinal and a brace each of archbishops and bishops – “watching the continuation of the deliberations on the [RH bill], which the Catholic Church condemns, at the House of Representatives.”

manila standard today front page 12-12-12

The front page of MST’s 12-12-12 issue.

Understandably, given their stature and eminence, these are grave, elderly men who have dedicated their lives to pursuing the interests of the Church. In their belief, by opposing the RH bill, they are trying to do their best for their adherents.

Among those clamoring for lawmakers to pass the RH bill are 23 medical groups, among them the Philippine Medical Association, Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Department of Health, Philippine College of Physicians, and others.

The groups combined represent around 267,000 health care professionals (physicians, nurses, and midwives). The PMA said in a statement, “As health care providers we cannot be reduced to being for or against the bill because our obligation has and will always be about saving lives, and the longer we stay quiet, the more lives are lost.”

pma website

Screenshot of Philippine Medical Association website.

Like the Catholic clergy so adamantly on the opposite side of the fence, these health care providers are also believe they are doing their best for those they serve.

There can be no compromise in this regard, because such a bill is all or nothing. A watered-down version would not deliver all the benefits sought by the bill’s authors and supporters.

But what do old celibate men know firsthand about having wives and children or raising a family in dire circumstances? By the very nature of their vocation, they are not allowed to have personal experience of this. They make their stand based on their faith.

Medical practitioners, however, themselves have families of their own and are directly engaged in caring for pregnant women, mothers, and newborn infants. They make their stand based on their knowledge, experience, and personal observation over years of medical practice.

This is how our lawmakers need to make decisions – based on science and facts, not on the dictates of a religious text or dogma that not everyone in this society believes in.

anti rh congress

Why some representatives voted against the RH Bill on 12-12-12. Image found on Facebook here.

That would be the logical and sensible way of doing things because in a society with a degree of diversity such as ours, not everyone is Catholic. Not everyone disagrees with the provisions of the RH bill. Merely because a traditionally powerful clique in society wishes to continue holding sway over politics as it did in centuries past does not mean that we should allow this to continue today.

Allowing one Church to have their way in this would make us no different from a religious state such as those in the Middle East. Doing so would negate the provision for the separation of church and state in the Constitution. Doing so would render useless the efforts made by many throughout history who championed science and the right to personal choice and suffered for defying the intransigence of the dominant ideology.

The inflexibility of the Catholic Church’s stand on the RH bill and other current events shows how stuck it is in the past. For some of the clergy to have blamed events as disparate as the devastation caused by typhoon Pablo and the devastation caused upon Manny Pacquiao’s face by Juan Manuel Marquez’s powerful right hand to the wrath of God is to impute a gullible credulity to the populace.

The RH bill should not be made a religious issue because it is a health issue. Let us hope lawmakers will see through the smokescreen of swung censers and make their decisions based on facts for the good for the many, not the few.

* * * * *

sire of sires in philippines graphic 3 dec 2012Thanks to Philippines Graphic magazine for publishing a short story of mine, “Sire of Sires” in their December 3 issue. The story is set at the racetrack, and might be interesting for those who like their fiction brewed black, no sugar.   *** 

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pop goes the world: the secrets that we keep

UPDATE: Mr. Christy blogged about this column here. Thank you, Mr. Christy.

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  27 September 2012, Thursday

The Secrets That We Keep

It took a foreigner to open the Filipino public’s eyes to the tragedy of illegal ivory trading in the Philippines.

Bryan Christy’s article on the topic for National Geographic’s October 2012 issue was posted online as early as last week, and broke on Twitter when the link to the story was posted by activist Carlos Celdran, who urged authorities to investigate the matter. The story was picked up this week by local newspapers.

According to Christy, he came to the country five times to “get a lead on who was behind 5.4 tons of illegal ivory seized by customs agents in Manila in 2009, 7.7 tons seized there in 2005, and 6.1 tons bound for the Philippines seized by Taiwan in 2006. Assuming an average of 22 pounds of ivory per elephant, these seizures represent about 1,745 elephants.”

His search led him to interview Monsignor Cristobal Garcia of Cebu Archdiocese, member of a wealthy family and a collector of religious art, whose extensive collection includes ivory pieces.

Christy says Garcia gave him tips on how to purchase ivory and smuggle it into the United States, among them this: “Wrap it in old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it,” [Garcia] said. “So it looks shitty with blood. This is how it is done.”

Filipino Roman Catholics worship religious statues in themselves as objects of spiritual power and magic, ascribing to them miraculous events and cures. There’s the Santo Niño de Cebu, said to be the oldest image in the country, given by Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon in 1521; and the Jesus Nazareno or Black Nazarene, carried around in a clamorous and sweaty procession on its feast day. While both of these are made of wood, the material of choice for religious images is elephant ivory, prized for its translucent glow and high market value.

The worldwide treaty that sets and enforces wildlife trade policy is the Convention on International/ Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), opened for signature in 1973, in force in 1975. CITES lists both African and Asian elephants as threatened species; a global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989 to ensure that elephant populations worldwide recover from the slaughter by poachers for their tusks.

The Philippines is party to the treaty, which ensures that trade in plants and wild animals does not threaten their survival and offers protection to over 33,000 species.

The resources of CITES are limited; it deems the Philippines as merely a transit point to China for ivory, whereas the reality, as Christy discovered, is that it is also a destination because of the local demand for the material, which is sold mainly in religious image stores in Tayuman, Manila.

An antique ivory carving on display at the Yuchengco Museum.  I took this photo on a visit there in 2010, and blogged about it here. Only new ivory is banned and has been since 1989. 

The government recently reacted to Christy’s story and the subsequent public interest in the topic, saying that traders of illegally acquired ivory would be investigated and prosecuted if found liable; among the agencies working on this are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Customs, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Justice.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that the NBI was investigating the ivory trade even before Christy’s story broke, adding that Customs intercepted a P48 million shipment of rhino tusks just last week.

All this is good to hear – now. But why did we not hear about this sooner? Why did it have to take a foreigner to bring this to local public awareness?

Our country hides many secrets, and this was one of them. Now that the cover has been thrown back on this illicit activity, we realize that here is yet another issue that will bring us national shame.

“Embarrassing,” NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas called it, “[and] it puts us in a bad light.” He vowed that those “who will be found involved in the illegal trade will be immediately charged.”

We have taken for granted too long many cultural conventions that turn out to be against the law. And when a priest himself, a monsignor no less, gives someone else tips on how to buy and smuggle new ivory that was quite likely taken from illegally killed elephants, we should wonder about our much-vaunted morals and those who are supposed to teach them to us.

Christy revealed another secret about Garcia. Go online and check out his article. Find out for yourself what it is. Maybe it does need an outsider to tell us these things, because these are embarrassing things, things that will put us in a bad light, things that we would rather not hear for shame.  *** 

Photo of Mr. Christy here

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daily art: essay-a-day

Inspired by Summer Pierre’s one-page story writing exercise, I started an essay-a-day daily art project, a diary-slash-creative non-fiction effort.

Summer’s method of using keyword flashcards to choose a topic is interesting but I’m too lazy to make flashcards. I suppose instead of flashcards that I’d have to carry around, I could flip through a book and point to a word.

For now I rely on serendipitous random happenstance of whatever floats to the surface of my mind when faced with a blank sheet of paper, though I do have a theme going on now; all the pieces start with “In [add name of city].”

Here’s my second entry in a pocket plain Moleskine.

Materials: vintage Sheaffer Agio fountain pen inked with Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses, Derwent Coloursoft pencils.

I follow Summer’s rules of writing whatever comes first to mind and no editing. The length of the piece is constrained by the size of the page, although I’ve done a two-page piece.

I posted the picture above on Instagram and Twitter, and tweeted a link to Summer’s article. That got a retweet and a favorite from Summer herself! (Follow her on Twitter @summerpierre).

I asked if she didn’t mind that I adopted her idea.

Her reply? “@jennyortuoste of course not! I am THRILLED you took to it!”

Art is global and knows no boundaries. 

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pop goes the world: a primer on the national artist award

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste

Published in two parts: Manila Standard-Today,  19 July 2012 and Manila Standard-Today, 26 July 2012

A Primer on the National Artist Award

The Philippines was plunged into mourning by the recent death of the media-dubbed “Comedy King”, actor Rodolfo “Dolphy” Quizon.

To a degree unprecedented, the nation avidly followed the 24/7 media reports and coverage of his illness, death, wake, and funeral rites over several weeks until its culmination with the interment of the actor in his massive metal casket last July 15.

The Dolphenomenon spawned renewed interest in the actor’s life and his career. Born into an impoverished family, from an early age he had to work selling peanuts at theaters to support himself and loved ones.

Given a break to learn the thespian’s craft and allowed to hone his technique in vaudeville skits, he learned to sing, dance, and act, and found he had a knack for comedy. This he parlayed into fame and fortune with his drag-dressed portrayal of gays and carefree enactment of poor men in films and on television.

Not only was Dolphy an excellent all-around actor (all too rare in these times where mere good looks without talent are enough to merit media exposure), he was also that uncommon thing, a genuinely good man, who had not a bad or mean thing to say about anybody, who welcomed all into his fold, who emptied his pockets to help those less fortunate.

It is not surprising then that a grateful and sentimental nation wishes to honor such an admirable man in any way it can. Thus the clamor for the conferment upon Dolphy of the National Artist Award.

This was debated as early as 2009. In a July 5 article that appeared in another publication, former NCCA executive director Cecille Guidote-Alvarez said in a radio interview that were it not for the disapproval of Dr. Nicanor Tiongson at the second stage of deliberations, Dolphy could have received the award back then.

A noted author, academician, and critic, Dr. Tiongson was once vice-president and artistic director of the CCP in the late 1980s to mid 1990s and chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

Tiongson replied soon after saying that the “accusations” made by Guidote-Alvarez are “selective and misleading,” making it “appear that one person (in this case, myself) can actually engineer the outcome of the second stage of the National Artist selection process, when in reality it is a council of about 20 experts representing various disciplines that chooses, through majority and secret vote, the candidates to be short-listed for the final deliberations.

The selection of a National Artist is done in three stages by three bodies and it is simply impossible for any one person to influence all of them into making the same decision.”

Tiongson also said Guidote-Alvarez’s revelation was a “grave breach of the confidentiality” since she was co-chair of the 2009 National Artist Awards Selection Committee, and questioned its timing, made three years after the fact.

Tiongson also clarified that the opinion he expressed on Dolphy’s body of work “in no way diminishes my continuing admiration and respect for Dolphy as a most talented comedian and a very kind human being.”

The conflict between the two led to more questions on the award, its criteria, and its very purpose.

What is the National Order of Artists?

According to information on the National Commission for Culture and the Arts website, it is “the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts; namely, Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film and Broadcast Arts, and Architecture and Allied Arts. The order is jointly administered by the NCCA and Cultural Center of the Philippines and conferred by the President of the Philippines upon recommendation by both institutions.”

What are the criteria?

Apart from citizenship requirements, the National Artist award is to be given to “artists who through the content and form of their works have contributed in building a Filipino sense of nationhood…who have pioneered in a mode of creative expression or style, thus, earning distinction and making an impact on succeeding generations of artists…who have created a substantial and significant body of works and/or consistently displayed excellence in the practice of their art form thus enriching artistic expression or style; and…who enjoy broad acceptance through prestigious national and/or international recognition, such as the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining, CCP Thirteen Artists Award, and NCCA Alab ng Haraya; critical acclaim and/or reviews of their works; respect and esteem from peers.”

The NCCA also recognizes folk and traditional artists through the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or the National Living Treasures Award. Established in April 1992 through Republic Act No. 7335, the GAMABA honors artists who “reflect the diverse heritage and cultural traditions that transcend their beginnings to become part of our national character” and engage in a traditional art uniquely Filipino and characterized by a “high level of technical and artistic excellence.” Their presence is required at NCCA events such as “the Philippine National Arts Month, the National Heritage Month, and other important national and regional cultural celebrations.”

Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said last month that President Benigno Aquino III “personally believes that Dolphy has contributed immensely to the arts. And in fact, in his words, he has contributed tremendously to what we call ‘art for man’s sake’.”

Since it is the NCCA and the CCP that recommends the awardees after much research and discussion, the President himself cannot give the award. Lacierda also cited the temporary restraining order that the Supreme Court issued in 2009, after a group of national artists led by Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera and Dr. Virgilio Almario accused former president Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo of “grave abuse of discretion” for adding the names of director Carlo J. Caparas, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, architect Francisco Mañosa, and fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno to the list of National Artist awardees.

The President did give Dolphy an honor that was within the scope of his powers to confer. In November 2010, within a few months of his assumption of office, the President invited the actor to Malacañang Palace to receive the Order of the Grand Collar of the Golden Heart, which was first awarded to humanitarian Helen Keller in 1955.

At the occasion, the comedian joked that he no longer wished to be given the National Artist award, and that at his age, a “National Arthritis Award” would be enough.

It is clear that the conferment of the National Artist award is a multi-layered process that cannot – and should not, like Macapagal-Arroyo tried to do – be influenced by the head of state or partisan politics.

There are strict criteria regarding its bestowal that must be honored if the award is to have any credibility. If it can be conferred without a rigorous and objective selection process, if it can be swayed by sentiment or clamor, it is worthless.

Dolphy could have been given the award upon further deliberation after 2009, if so deemed worthy by the selection committee. However, they could not do so because of the TRO issued by the Supreme Court.

At the moment, then, it is up to the SC to take the next step, so that the NCCA and the CCP can get on with its task of sifting the nominees for this supreme cultural honor. It is too late to award it to the living Dolphy; perhaps he may still receive it posthumously?

As to its purpose of the National Artist award, that remains part of the ongoing discourse. But if we agree that a nation’s art contains and reflects its heart and soul, then it is essential for us to honor its creators, either through such an award, conferred by the state, or through popular acclaim, manifested in the tears and laughter that accompanied the beloved Dolphy to his final rest.   ***

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pop goes the world: an introvert’s holiday

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  22 March 2012, Thursday

An Introvert’s Holiday

It’s summer, when temperatures rise and nerves get frayed to snapping.

School is out and children are bored at home. Parents want to wean them off their electronic teats – Internet, television, video games – and send them out to play and learn in the real world. Stress-wrecked grownups who can’t calm down despite the regular inuman with friends or coffee-shop me-times want to reclaim their inner peace.

But how to accomplish all this without having to part crowds like Moses and deal with the yammer of the multitudes?

Rolando Tolentino, columnist and dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, tweeted yesterday: “Pag umaapaw ang aligaga na kahit ang usual treat-to-self ay di na umuubra, panahon nang pisikal na pagtakas. Fly high at bumalik na lang.“

A change of environment is called for.

Last December I took my two daughters with me for a tranquil yet creatively stimulating week in Baguio City. For many of us it was the default vacation location of our childhood. It’s still a magical place, channeling a Buddhist vibe of serenity despite the burgeoning pollution, construction, and population explosion.

Veer away from the usual haunts and immerse in places you haven’t yet been. Baguio is a city that is a living artwork. At Chocolate sa Batirol open-air café at Camp John Hay, even the stumps of trees that serve as seats are gaily painted with words and figures.

Paintings, sculptures, and antique wood carvings fill National Artist Ben Cabrera’s BenCab museum; its basement shelters Café Isabel and overlooks foliage-blanketed hills as fog rolls across your field of vision. Sip a cup of hot Benguet Arabica while you meditate on nature and art coming together in one enchanted dell.

View from the BenCab Museum balcony.

At Cafe Isabel, BenCab Museum.

Along Session Road, visit Namaste at Porto Vaga for bespoke crystal bracelets and Buddhist artwork from Nepal. Sit and read at Mountain Cloud bookshop, then walk a few steps to Hill Station restaurant next door for apple pie and more coffee. Go to VOCAS/Oh My Gulay at La Azotea for vegetarian meals inside an art gallery.

Namaste is visual bliss.

A “bookshelf chair” at Mt. Cloud bookshop.

Aerial view of Hill Station, from the Casa Vallejo inn staircase.

Vegetarian dishes at Oh My Gulay within VOCAS art gallery.

At Hotel Elizabeth along Gibraltar Road, enter a state of Zen at Bliss Café, and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at Café by the Ruins on Chuntug Road.

Interesting interior of Bliss Cafe. The light is warm and enveloping.

Cafe by the Ruins is adorned with artwork.

The easiest way to get to Baguio is by bus. Victory Liner has a fleet of airconditioned buses bound for points north; the deluxe ones have an on-board toilet and acres of legroom. An online ticketing system makes getting seats stress-free.

The Victory Liner terminal at Baguio City.

The people of Victory Liner are kind and helpful – the kids and I wound up at the wrong terminal, and the people there called ahead to the right one to let us know we were on the way to catch our bus. When we arrived photo-finish, puffing and panting, only smiles greeted us as willing hands reached out to stow our luggage in the cargo hold and guide us into our seats. A bus attendant handed out bottled water, snacks, and magazines. It was like taking an airplane flight.

For accommodations, book reservations online for the Microtel Inn right beside Victory’s Baguio City terminal. The food is great, the breakfast chef cooks your eggs the way you like it, and there is free-flowing coffee in the lobby.

The Microtel Inn is right beside the Victory Liner terminal.

Take your journey, the one that will help you rediscover your balance, gain peace, and recharge your soul.

* * * * *

Last December 17, typhoon Sendong obliterated entire communities in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, leaving over 3,000 persons dead and missing and 342,000 more displaced and homeless, living in tent cities or barangay sports courts.

In the aftermath, 56 people, some of them young children, tried to take their own lives. There is an increase in incidences of teenage pregnancy, incest, and rape, especially in the tent cities.

Psycho-social intervention helps by coaching survivors in stress-relief techniques based on yoga and proper breathing. To help continue sustaining the Art of Living trauma relief workshops being conducted in the area, Hongkong-based opera singer Wayne Yeh and international theater performer Lissa Romero-de Guia will be singing on March 26 at the “Opera vs. Broadway” fundraising concert for the benefit of the survivors of typhoon Sendong.

Image from Lissa de Guia.

Wayne will sing opera and Lissa Broadway hits, in a duel of style and sound at the Isla Ballroom, EDSA Shangri-La Hotel Manila. Ticket details at http://www.artofliving.org.ph or call Madeline Pajarillo at (0917)820-2081. *** 

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pop goes the world: impeachment as drama

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  12 January 2012, Thursday

Impeachment as Drama

The ubiquity of communication media makes it possible for an entire nation to follow an impeachment trial that, back in the old days before television and television networks seeking to outdo each other in ratings, could only be viewed by a select few.

Government and court proceedings were filtered by information “middlemen” – journalists, writers, reporters – through the processes of agenda-setting and framing, whether performed unconsciously or not. The audience did not use to receive the entirety of the experience. This was made possible later on with the advent of the Internet, to the vastness of which reams of documents and footage could be uploaded. This could not be done in the limited space of print or regular broadcast channels.

With the rampant commercialization of the media, especially television, and the tougher arena brought about by a free-market environment and the number of competitors, networks playing the ratings game are forced to deliver what the public wants, in order to survive. And if the public wants to see more of this and less of the other, programming is developed to cater to those wishes.

Since today’s audience is politically savvy, a highly significant event such as the Corona impeachment trial is being given extensive coverage by the networks and others news organizations and individuals on the Internet.

Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona before the start of his impeachment trial. Image here.

While this easy access to information makes it possible for the audience to craft their own experience by picking and choosing their sources of news, the constant exposure also has a tendency to desensitize. The Corona trial is eagerly watched, almost as if it were the latest telenovela, as if these aspects of our country’s politics and governance were merely plot elements in a play.

The word drama comes from the Greek “to act” or “to do”. It must have characters who, in the course of their lives, somehow become involved in a conflict situation. The narrative follows their actions and reactions to the conflict, which at the end of the play are resolved.

People following the trial cast the characters in their minds as either “hero” or “villain” depending on their personal beliefs and convictions. And because the Internet, unlike traditional print and broadcast media, allow for instant and nearly unlimited feedback, it can bring out the best in people, who share insightful and meaningful comments, and the worst, through “trolls”, vicious-minded people who have no significant analysis and post only cruel and hurtful insults.

The trial is bringing out the true colors of people.

Apart from being seen as a drama, it is also being pegged in public perception as a sporting event. Facebook and Twitter users, especially the latter, post play-by-plays of the proceedings: “Si Cuevas parang nakikipagkwentuhan lang sa Starbucks.” “Dimaandal looks like he could use a beer.” “Bully, o.” Pass the popcorn.

Does this mean we no longer take important events such as impeachment trials seriously? Filipinos as a people have a dramatic nature – “romantic”, a creative writing professor of mine described it. Filipinos tend to exaggerate, inflate, and yes, dramatize even the most trivial of events.

Putting the impeachment trial on the level of a drama or sporting event underscores the tremendous interest that people are taking in the proceedings, because Filipinos care deeply about such things, and elevate telenovelas and the PBA to cult status. Treating the trial like “Flor de Luna” and Corona as bida or contrabida shows that we care what is happening to our country, that we want to participate in this even vicariously, and that if the only way we can be a part of this milestone event is to watch it, then by golly we will.

And we’ll discuss it, over bottles of beer at an after-office inuman or online, because by being aware of the unfolding of events and sharing our opinions on them we enter the play as actors ourselves, and thereby feel – even to a slight degree, even if it is an illusion – in control of our nation’s destiny.

Whatever the outcome of this impeachment, we will already have gained something valuable – we will have learned something more about ourselves as a people.

* * * * *

Award-winning photographer Dominique James, who is now based in the US, recently announced the launch of Blanc Worldwide, an “international photo collective” composed of six photographer-members: Dominique James (Atlanta) and Lester Callanta (Toronto), co-founders; and Kyo Suayan (San Francisco), Michael Mariano (New York), David Fabros (Manila), and Randy Tamayo (Melbourne), founding members.

Their online gallery at http://www.blancworldwide.com exhibits a landscape photograph from each member, available for a limited time to the public as fine art photographic prints.

According to Dominique James, “The two main goals of Blanc Worldwide are to provide professional representation of the Filipino photographers in the international arena, and to make their works available and accessible worldwide. The chosen images for Blanc Worldwide’s exhibition and exclusive print sale depicts aspects of the immediate, primary or accessible location from where each of the photographers is geographically based.”

“This is the first tightly-knit, project-oriented photography collective composed of Filipino photographers of its kind in this digital age that we know of,” he added.  *** 

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buddha says: whom to love

You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. - Buddha

Photo taken at Namaste, Baguio City, Dec 2011.

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pop goes the world: all i want for christmas

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  22 December 2011, Thursday

All I Want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas is for tropical storm Sendong to never have happened.

But that it has, it’s inspiring to see how the public has pulled together to send aid to the stricken victims in the flooded areas. Technology-boosted communication played a vital role in bringing this about.

The role of social media in mobilizing efforts was crucial in making things happen and happen fast. As the news of the storm’s devastation broke, news and images were being uploaded to Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube within minutes. Public awareness spread quickly, much faster than in the days of when only radio and TV were around to carry news.

Computer-mediated communication also made it convenient and easy for donations to be made. Nowadays, if you can click on a button, you can send money. No excuse for couch potatoes.

By Saturday afternoon, links were created to click for donations to the Philippine Red Cross. One could donate via SMS (automatically deducted from your prepaid load or charged to your postpaid bill) or via credit card; one could also sign up to volunteer. Upon donating, a FB user had the option of wearing a Red Cross “badge” on his profile pic, not only to show that a donation had been made, but also to spread awareness.

Artists also threw their creative support into the mix, coming up with interesting graphic posters that drew attention to important information such as the donation links; these photos were easily “Shared” on FB, making spreading the word more efficient.

The telcos SMART and Globe also had similar “text to donate” mechanisms, offering a range of denominations, from five pesos to as high as one thousand.

Radio host and writer Gang Badoy, who has a strong Twitter presence, called for prominent companies to donate their services. Within a couple of hours, LBC responded, offering to transport gratis donated relief goods – “bottled water, food, blankets, clothes, etc.” – left at any of their branches.

Convenience store 7-Eleven Philippines offered to donate for every “Like” on their FB Page: “On behalf of our fans, we are donating P10 for every new like, up to 1 Million Pesos. You can help by liking our page, and hitting the ‘share’ button.” They came under fire for taking advantage of the situation to generate publicity, but as some other comments went, “At least they’re donating!” The store chain now also accepts donations from the public at any of their branches.

Special interest communities also went on board to raise funds for its members. Writers on FB were sorry to learn that the house of Palanca Award-winning poet, writer, and Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology professor German Gervacio (Hari Maniwari is his latest novel) was inundated by mud.

University of the Philippines Filipino literature professor Jun Cruz Reyes, who is in contact with German via cellphone, posted on FB:Nalubog sa baha ang bahay ni German Gervacio. Hanggang bewang ang tubig. Warat mga gamit n’ya. Pati computer n’ya, damay, kaya ako na lang ang nag-post para sa kanya. Wala pa rin silang koryente. At wala na rin siyang mababasang libro. Back to square one ang mag-asawa. Tulungan natin s’yang makaahon.”

It horrified me to learn that German’s books were all destroyed and that he had nothing to read. No computer, pens, nor paper? How can he write? I started filling a box with books I think he might find interesting and wondered if LBC would ship it for free. My daughters asked: “But do they have food and water?” Priorities, indeed. But that’s how we writers roll.

The community sprang into action, and donations for German are still being accepted at the UP Likhaan-Institute of Creative Writing office at the Faculty Center building, UP Diliman.

It was German’s 44th birthday yesterday. Instead of celebrating, he is busy setting his house to rights – “Naglilimas na ng putik…Ang problema, walang mapaglagyan dahil mataas din ang putik sa labas”.

He is also helping others less fortunate than himself. More than 100 people in his neighborhood died; the homeless are crammed into a nearby covered basketball court with minimal sanitation facilities and nowhere to cook. No clothes, no shoes, everything gone.

The scene is replicated all over Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, and the other flood deltas inundated by Sendong. Unattended corpses lie piled at mortuaries. The living lack food and water. Many are sick, others fatally ill. The death toll, now at 1,002, is expected to rise. This is no time to point fingers and assign blame; we can do that later. For now, we focus on priorities.

It’s a bleak and somber Christmas for our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. Let’s make it a little better for them – click on that link and donate some load, clean out that closet and drop off the boxes at LBC or 7-11.

Get online and find out how you can help in your own little way. It doesn’t matter if you can’t give a lot – every peso counts, and they’ll add up. Here’s an example: yesterday, soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines offered to give up one day’s subsistence allowance for Sendong victims. That’s about a ninety pesos per soldier. But they are 80,000 strong, so together they have raised a total of P7.2 million. That’s news that warms the heart, and I snap off a salute in their direction.

Spread the holiday cheer with others, and have a meaningful holiday season. *** 

Photo of Dr Gen Asenjo (De La Salle University), JennyO, and German Gervacio at the Palanca Awards Night last 1 Sep 2011.

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kahlil gibran: the prophet

It was in a small indie bookstore in South Pasadena – The Battery – that I came upon a little book by Kahlil Gibran that I had not read for couple of decades.

 The Battery bookshop, South Pasadena, California. October 2011.

It was The Prophet, Gibran’s tour-de-force of poetry. I was introduced to it in my teens by The Beloved, who pointed out to me the wisdom in its mystical, Biblically-cadenced passages.

I bought that little book  - hardcover, 4.5 by 5.5 inches, with dust jacket, pre-owned – for six dollars, and consider it money well spent. It’s just the right size to tuck in a back pocket or purse, and take out from time to time to immerse in the flow of language and philosophical ideas.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) was born in Lebanon and migrated with his family to the United States in 1895.

He was a painter, writer, and poet. His most popular work, The Prophet, has never been out of print. He is the third best-selling poet in history, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

From the chapter on Love:

Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.

And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:

When love beckons to you follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Image of Kahlil Gibran here.

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